Rural healthcare experts press Congress for faster regulatory action on wireless technologies

Rural healthcare experts Thursday pressed lawmakers for changes to the Food and Drug Administration's regulatory regime so it can speed up certification and review of new wireless technologies crucial to delivering care in rural areas. Witnesses at a House Veterans Affairs health subcommittee hearing described a new era of telemedicine where rural doctors can monitor a fetus' heartbeat or a mother's contraction patterns on their iPhone from many miles away.

"We now need to consider that bandwidth and wireless access are a prescribable medication for the health of our communities," said David Cattell-Gordon, a faculty member at the University of Virginia.

In his testimony, Cattell-Gordon recommended Congress:

  • Continue funding of demonstration projects that use wireless technology to enhance home monitoring, health promotion and education;
  • Ensure health systems are incentivized to use wireless;
  • Encourage medical education to incorporate training with wireless devices;
  • Fund health systems so they can equip themselves with wireless technology;
  • Promote standards for their use; and
  • Help create a national wireless network of "seamless coverage without network fragmentation."